Quality management of critical activities with a large number of subcontractors
Examensarbete för masterexamen
Design and construction project management (MPDCM), MSc
The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the application of quality management in infrastructure projects, as well as the challenges, when a large number of subcontractors are involved. The challenges with quality management in infrastructure projects originate from a wide spectrum of factors such as the main contractors’ lack of expertise in all the outsourced activities and a greater responsibility for the main contractor. In order to achieve the purpose and objective of the thesis, the following research questions were formulated: Which processes and methods are available to assure and control the quality of critical activities executed by subcontractors? What are the challenges with quality management of subcontractors? The empirical research also generated plans and suggestions for improvements in the studied contractor’s quality management system, specifically when applying the system to activities and processes executed by subcontractors. Although two interviews were conducted with two different subcontractor representatives, the vast majority of the interviews were conducted with representatives from the studied main contractor. Therefore, the resulting suggestions and ideas are primarily related to the studied contractor, as their specific processes and procedures have been studied. The studied contractor is a construction and development company and the activities studied are in the civil engineering projects under their responsibility. The critical activities performed by the subcontractors are in the technical areas of concrete structures, steel constructions, installations and railway works. The empirical background concentrates on the contractor’s quality management system, processes and operations regarding subcontractors in two bridge projects. The methods for quality assurance and quality control in both projects have been studied. The problems that emerged and their causes have also been studied and collected. The methods have been compared to distinguish the differences between quality assurance and quality control in the two projects. Interviews have been conducted with the contractor’s projects actors in the two projects as well as two representatives from two different subcontractors. These interviews have included both unstructured and semi-structured interviews with the aim of extracting the full experience from the respondents. The results show that the studied contractor handles quality management of concrete works and steel works rather well: there were/are clear methods for quality assurance and quality control in both projects. This could largely be attributed to the fact that the II contractor possesses expertise in these activities. The railway works had only been completed on one of the projects, and the contractor faced considerable problems in this field. The problems stemmed from the contractor’s lack of knowledge and experience; the procurement route; insufficient communication between contractor and subcontractor, and; insufficient integration of the design and construction of the railway. The documentation management is more planned on one of the projects, with the active involvement of a quality manager. The procurement process is organized and well described in the contractor’s management system. The procurement process includes subcontractor prequalification analysis. Issues inte the procurement process includes integrating the quality requirements of all project actors as well as establishing all quality requirements early in the project. The study has generated several recommendations and suggestions for improving the contractor’s quality management of subcontractors’ activities. The procurement stage benefits from transparency between contractor and subcontractor, strategic cooperation and early integration of the different requirements. The procurement route of a subcontractor should be chosen based on the contractor’s knowledge and abilities to control a certain activity. The subcontractors perform their activities more efficiently if they are given the adequate pre-conditions and the time they need. The use of method statements, inspection test plans and flowcharts may give the contractor a tool in generating effective process descriptions from the subcontractor. The study affirms that communication is paramount and the contractor and subcontractor should strive to sustain regular meetings/technical briefings. The contractor’s use of visual and illustrative guidance is a powerful tool in assuring that subcontractors perform according to the quality requirements. The activities for which the contractor lacks knowledge and experience can be solved by using a competent and experienced coordinator. The coordinator should integrate design and construction while also coordinating the activities in question with the activities of other subcontractors and project actors.
Samhällsbyggnadsteknik , Civil Engineering